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United Nations (Aid Programmes)

Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 29 March 2017

Discussions with the United Nations are central to the Department’s work. The Secretary of State speaks regularly to the Secretary-General, and I am lucky enough to be able to speak regularly to the heads of UN agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Our focus is not just on funding, but on reform, in particular making sure that we have better co-ordination in humanitarian crises.

UN aid programmes are an investment on behalf of all citizens, so, given their importance, I was surprised to read some of the sweeping statements in the multilateral review. Does the Secretary of State accept that if institutions are to be reformed, perhaps that should be done with the co-operation of all member states, not at the unilateral discretion of her Department?

We believe very strongly that reform should be done with other member states and as part of a coalition. As the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, the multilateral development review has pointed to issues where we think further reform is needed, but the United Nations is central to Britain’s response around the world. In fact, we are contributing £1.6 billion this year in our work with the United Nations, addressing some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

What success has been had in recruiting Gulf states to work through the UN system and in encouraging them to support our UN reform agenda?

Clearly, Gulf states, which are increasingly large parts of the economy of the world, are central to humanitarian response. There have been significant contributions from the Gulf—from Saudi, UAE and Qatar—and the Secretary of State continues to encourage those contributions, particularly those that address the famines in the horn of Africa.

As President Trump slashes aid spending, it is more important than ever that global, outward-looking nations live up to their responsibilities, not shirk them, to fill the aid funding gaps. Will the Minister commit to working with our partners on increasing their aid spending, to show that despite Brexit the UK can still be a global leader embracing its global responsibilities?

We agree absolutely with that. It is central that other countries meet their targets. We are very proud to be able to stand tall in the world, particularly at a time when children are starving to death. That is why the Secretary of State is leading international coalitions to increase the international commitment to these desperate issues.